Sun. Mar 29th, 2020

“People are dying alone”

A shipment of 492 phones arrived this afternoon at the home of Ignacio Ibáñez, a man from Madrid who has been working for days on an initiative to get them to isolated coronavirus patients in hospitals. “My wife is a health worker in a Madrid hospital. Speaking to her, she explained that one of the main problems is that people are alone,” he says. “In some centers there are no visits. Those who enter are alone. And if they die, they die alone.”

Days ago, the surgeon Cristina Marín, a worker at the Hospital de La Princesa, had sent an audio to her family proposing to send letters of encouragement to patients. Marín detected the same problem as him. “The patients are in brutal isolation. They are completely alone, separated from their families,” he said. “I have spoken to the doctors who carry the infectious group and they have promised that if I give them anonymous letters from people, they will send them to them.”

Marín’s message went viral. Met 35,000 letters in the first days and several hospitals joined and enabled email addresses. “I thought it was somewhat incomplete, because there was no direct communication with the person you want to talk to,” continues the man from Madrid. “I said: we can still develop software and put it on ‘tablets’ so that patients can communicate … Then I thought: stop using ‘tablets’. We’re going to get phones.”

Isolated patients don’t always have their mobile handy, he explains. “A common case is: you feel unwell. You call, you count the symptoms, they come to your house and you go directly to the isolation. Sometimes you go with what you wear. Others, people go to the emergency room, they test positive and they stay there. The mobile phone lasts as long as the battery lasts, “he says. “There is also the case of older people who do not take it and have no communication with the outside.”

Through a contact in LG, Ibáñez obtained a donation of 492 mobiles. “The president in Spain told me: it seems like a good idea. He was looking at where to get them and he got them for me,” he continues. Through another contact in Orange, he asked for 492 SIM cards, which he is waiting to receive. As soon as they arrive, “my wife and I will do an assembly line at home: we open the cell phones, put the card on them, load them and make them available for delivery to the hospital.” They still do not know if they will take them or if they will order it from the Post Office, which continues to provide service.

The idea is that, in each hospital, the person in charge of delivering the emails is the one who controls the phones and their batteries. “That she is a little pending, that if she is an older person I can help her …”, he continues. The first hospital to receive them will be that of La Paz. They’ll send 50 and see how it works. “We are calling the network of hospitals in the Community of Madrid and they are all agreeing. La Paz is the first one that has been confirmed.”

The 492 phones are not the same. But they are all ‘smartphones’ with cameras. “I have negotiated with Orange that the cards have data. It is important: this way we do not saturate the hospital’s Wi-Fi network and this way patients can speak by videoconference with their families,” he concludes.


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